After a great start so far to the 2013-14 NBA season, the Wolves are beginning to look like a serious playoff contender. A lot of excitement and buzz has been generated in Minnesota behind a 7-4 start and their prolific offense. Below I put together some thoughts about how this Pups team matches up with each of their Western Conference opponents. Enjoy!
Advantages: Dallas is ranked third to last in points allowed per game. This will be big for the Wolves who are ranked 3rd in the league in scoring. We are going to have to take advantage of their bad defense.
Disadvantages: Monta Ellis has been playing really well this year averaging 23.3 points a game alongside a healthy Dirk Nowitzki. This team is going to be tough to beat every night regardless of their defensive deficiencies. It is crucial that we play tough defense and force Monta to take contested shots.
Advantages: Denver does not have an extremely dynamic offense, and the loss of JaVale McGee certainly hurts their ability to clear room on the perimeter for their shooters. Minnesota runs a much faster paced game this season, and in the result of a shootout against Denver the Wolves would definitely be favored. Denver currently ranks 20th in the NBA in field goal percentage.
Disadvantages: The Nuggets are a very good defensive and rebounding team. The Wolves are going to have to be able to score efficiently and not rely on second chance baskets with Kenneth Faried pulling down rebounds. Denver is extremely good at crashing the boards and getting rebounds, as they currently rank second in the NBA in that category. And while Minnesota is not far behind in rebounding, they will need to get down to business and not let up unnecessary second chance points on the opposite end.
Golden State Warriors
Advantages: Golden State has committed 185 turnovers as a team which puts them at 25th in the NBA. Although they like to get out and run, it will be our job to make them pay when they turn it over. As we saw in the first contest between the two teams, points off turnovers will be a key stat to keep an eye on.
Disadvantages: Golden State is extremely versatile and can score efficiently in nearly every way. Stephen Curry is a legitimate superstar and can take over a game on any single night because of his remarkable ability to drain threes and dish out assists. And while Ricky Rubio has the ability to cause trouble for Curry on the defensive end, keeping up with Curry can prove to be an impossible task at times. Thanks in part to Curry and the addition of Andre Igoudala, the Warriors rank seventh in the NBA in assists and do a very nice job keeping everyone involved on the floor. Their ability to maintain an even scoring attack on a consistent basis makes Golden State a legitimate title contender this season.
Advantages: Ricky Rubio will be our X-factor in the matchups with the Rockets. He has the clear advantage over the defensively incapable Jeremy Lin and the much smaller Patrick Beverley. Lin is extremely turnover prone while Rubio currently leads the NBA in steals per game, creating for a nightmare mismatch in Minnesota’s favor.
Disadvantages: Although we are a great rebounding team, there is always the question of how to stop Dwight Howard defensively. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are marginal defenders and Dwight Howard is one of the best low post scorers in the NBA. On the perimeter, James Harden has established himself as arguably the best shooting guard in the game since being shipped over from OKC. Although Brewer is a nice defender and Derek Williams has shown promise on that end of the floor, containing James Harden is no simple task especially now with D12 stretching the floor for him.
Los Angeles Clippers
Advantages: We have the offensive fire power to keep up with the Clippers, as the Wolves are ranked third in scoring this year. In addition, the Clippers are ranked dead last in total defense this year which should translate into more open shots to get the offense going. The Clippers are also ranked 25th in rebounding which should lead to more second chance buckets and hopefully more trips to the free throw line.
Disadvantages: The Clippers offense is extremely potent and they boast a very deep bench. The team can score at will and is ranked first in scoring averaging 110 points per game. Also, is there anyone in the NBA that can contain Chris Paul? The best point guard in the league has been a complete beast and is perpetually causing match-up problems for every opponent he has faced. Furthermore, the Clippers are able to reload with their second unit of which consists of Jamal Crawford and JJ Reddick.
Los Angeles Lakers
Advantages: No Kobe Bryant. The time is now to widen the gap and to make it more difficult for the Lakers to sneak into the playoffs. The Lakers are banged up and if we can get to Christmas with a sizeable gap between the Lakers, we should have no problem edging them out. Kevin Love will go face the old and injured Pau Gasol and should come out on top in that matchup. Expect a big day out of Love vs. his potential future employer.
Disadvantages: Kobe coming back could cause problems for us as he has terrorized the Minnesota franchise since the beginning of his career. The Lakers do show decent chemistry even without Kobe and they should not be overlooked because of their experience and mental toughness on D.
Advantages: There are not a whole ton of matchup advantages for Minnesota as this Memphis squad has continually caused problems for the Wolves in years past. However, with Kevin Martin aboard the Wolves have added a new dimension to their offense which could be the key to wearing out the tough Memphis defense. Memphis does not have the deepest bench so it is crucial for the Wolves’ second unit to win their matchups against Grizzlies’ backups.
Disadvantages: Memphis is a very good defensive team it will be very difficult to score against them. Furthermore, I think Marc Gasol is arguably the best center in the league right now. If he causes Love to get into foul trouble it could be a long night for the Wolves. Plus Zach Randolph plays with a lot of heart which could cause problems for us.
New Orleans Pelicans
Advantages: The Pelicans do not like to take outside shots. They are ranked last in 3-point attempts making them a live and die in the paint type of ball club. If we force them to take outside shots we should not have a problem containing them.
Disadvantages: New Orleans has very good shot blocking which could cause problems for Kevin Love and Big Pek. Anthony Davis is a very good defender and has the potential to keep Love in check. Also, Jrue Holliday is a very good scorer who is also known as one of the best faced-up defenders in the NBA, which would cause Rubio troubles gaining penetration.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Advantages: If we can find a way to contain Durant, Minnesota should do well this season against the Thunder. We had a very impressive victory earlier this season and if we maintain good defense and are efficient in our rotations, it should lead to more contested shots for OKC which could spell problems for them. The Thunder have not rebounded the ball well this season and the rebounding battle should be a big advantage for us looking forward.
Disadvantages: Russell Westbrook is now back from injury and is looking great. This will force us to play them differently than the first time around, as Durant and Westbrook combine to form one of the most lethal scoring combos in the league. Durant is second to only LeBron James in my mind and containing him is always a next to impossible task.
Advantages: Phoenix lacks the star power to keep up with the Wolves scoring while missing an experienced go-to scorer on their roster. Even though Phoenix has been playing well, they have had some troubles with turning the ball over. I feel it is a matter of time before the true tanking begins and the sweepstakes for Andrew Wiggins are in full effect. With Gortat gone, the Suns prospects for slowing down K-Love are increasingly more unlikely. Expect one or more 30-10 games from Love in our matchups this season.
Disadvantages: I would be stunned if we lost a game to Phoenix given the several positional mismatches that will be available to exploit.
Advantages: Portland has given up a lot of points this season and should have a difficult time slowing Minnesota’s potent scoring attack. While Portland possesses a strong starting 5, they lack an effective second unit of which has been lousy for the past several seasons. If we can keep the starting five in check and force LaMarcus Aldridge to take contested mid-range jumpers, Damian Lillard may not be enough to outscore the Wolves. Portland’s defense has also been a weakness this season, and they are in the bottom half of the league giving up 102 points per game.
Disadvantages: The starting 5 of the Blazers is very talented. Lillard and Aldridge have come together to form one of the top PG-PF pairings in the NBA. The key to beating the Blazers is by slowing down the starting 5 just enough while shutting down the bench. Portland does a good job of taking care of the basketball as they rank second in the NBA in fewest turnovers. It is crucial the Wolves create turnovers and force contested shots if they want a shot to take down the Blazers. I strongly feel that the Blazers will be one of the teams we are battling for that 7 or 8 seed for the Playoffs.
Advantages: Sacramento has problems scoring the ball this year being ranked 25th in the NBA in that category. Furthermore, DeMarcus Cousins, although supremely talented, still has not formed strong chemistry with his teammates as he continues to act like a immature teenager on the court. Kevin Martin should exploit his matchups against Marcus Thornton who is a very lax defender. Expect a big game from Martin and our big men with very little frontcourt defense to stop Love and Pek.
Disadvantages: DeMarcus Cousins is a monster on the offensive end and as a rebounder. With that being said, that is about the only bright spot for the lowly Kings. They are ranked at the bottom of the NBA in rebounding and once again lack a core that can carry the team during important moments of games. On the bright side, the team finally has new ownership and should be a few strong drafts away from being a playoff contender.
San Antonio Spurs
Advantages: Youth, our team is very young and has a pretty up-tempo offense. This could cause problems for the Spurs who like to keep everything in their half court offense while avoiding transition play.
Disadvantages: Experience. The Spurs have several savvy, future Hall of Fame veterans and they know how to control games in crunch time. In addition, their bench is very deep as they boast both Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard in their second unit and they will likely be contenders again this postseason.
Advantages: The Jazz are a very inexperienced team after losing both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson to free agency. They also currently have a huge hole at point guard right now with Trey Burke being sidelined with injury. Rubio will have a pretty big mismatch in driving to the lane and dishing out assists even with Burke on the floor. Utah is ranked 26th in the NBA in scoring so don’t expect them to score a lot of points on us.
Disadvantages: Utah likes to attack the rim and score points by slashing and creating opportunities at the charity stripe. It is critical we keep Utah contained and force them to take outside jump shots.